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Sexual Harassment

Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint

An employee experiencing or alleging sexual (or any kind of) harassment or assault in the workplace is a matter to be taken very seriously.

We advise employees on how to make a harassment complaint to their employer. We can also advise and represent employees in filing human rights complaints, claiming constructive dismissal, and making a complaint regarding breaches of occupational health and safety laws, all while being respectful of the emotional challenges that arise in these cases.

Similarly, we advise employers on how to respond to harassment complaints, how to deal with the accused employees, and how to conduct investigations into the alleged harassment. We help ensure that your organization fulfills its obligations to keep the workplace free of harassment. We also advise employers and represent them in relation to human rights complaints, constructive dismissal claims, and occupational health and safety complaints.

I’m being sexually harassed at work. What do I do?

We’re sorry you’re going through this. Know that you are not alone and that there are many supports available. In these situations, it is important to prioritize yourself and your own wellbeing. We have outlined some options below for managing risks to yourself and for making a plan moving forward. 

  1. Ensure you are safe and do what you whatever you need to do to be safe. Depending on the severity of the assault, you may need to remove yourself from the workplace. Consider taking a leave of absence while you consider your next steps. Note: you may be eligible for financial support through wage replacement benefits such as Employment Insurance (EI), short-term disability, or other benefits included in your employer benefits package.
  2. Create and maintain a detailed record. Write down what happened, when it happened, and who else might have been there. Do what you can to preserve any records (e.g. emails, text messages, etc.) relating to what happened.
  3. Assess whether you feel comfortable raising the concern(s) or incident(s) of sexual harassment with your HR department. You may not feel comfortable doing this right away, but you may ultimately need to raise your concerns in order to resolve the issue. 
  4. Determine if your company has a relevant policy. Look on the company intranet or if you feel comfortable, ask HR for a copy. The policy you’re looking for may be titled something like “Respect in the Workplace Policy”, “Bullying and Harassment Policy”, “Discriminatory Conduct Policy”, or “Complaint Process”. Determine whether you feel comfortable engaging in the process outlined in the policy (if one exists). 
  5. Assess whether you feel comfortable taking more formal steps. Some options include:
  • Make an internal complaint with HR or your manager;
  • If you are emotionally or physically unwell, take a medical leave;
  • Make a complaint with the Worker’s Compensation Board (for a psychological or physical injury at work);
  • Make a complaint with Occupational Health and Safety (due to an unsafe workplace);
  • File a human rights complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission or a civil claim with the Court;
  • Negotiate an exit with severance (by alleging constructive dismissal and negotiating a settlement); and/or
  • Make a report to the police.

How do we help? 

Your employer has an obligation to maintain a safe and respectful workplace. If you are being subjected to sexual harassment at work, that is not ok

We can help you understand your legal options. We understand that these situations are difficult to navigate, and our goal is to support you in making the decision that is best for you. 

Carbert Waite LLP